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Pacific Raceways Has Run Out Of Excuses

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SEATTLE - Hey, fellas . . . Imagine how well it would go over at home if your wife wanted you to paint the living room and repair the holes in the floor and you didn't do it, didn't do it for a decade?

 She suffers a sprained ankle because of the poor flooring and, in general, is embarrassed about the shabby condition of the house. But you keep inviting people over, apparently not at all chagrined about the neglected mess.

Every time your wife complains, you tell her, "I plan to do all that. You deserve the best house money can buy. But I'm holding off doing it. I'm saving money, because I plan to build you a huge compound with a mansion, swimming pool, tennis court, and guest house."

How do you suppose that would turn out?

That's a perfect analogy for what has been going on for the past 10 years or more at Pacific Raceways, home of the National Hot Rod Association's Northwest Nationals. The place is falling apart, and it's getting to the point that nothing short of bulldozing the dragstrip (and the tower, for good measure) and starting over will make much difference.

 Funny Car contender Robert Hight's blown tire -- at just 200 feet out on the 1,000-foot course -- prompted the NHRA to send its Safety Safari track-prep crew out in the dark for six hours that Friday night / Saturday morning.

Gary Scelzi, the four-time Top Fuel and Funny Car champion, raised an excellent point the following week in a "$@#! Scelzi Says" segment for Competition Plus Audio. He wondered aloud why the NHRA track-prep crew, which proved itself capable of correcting the problem overnight, didn't address the issue before the event began.
Funny Car owner-driver-crew chief Tim Wilkerson expressed what surely is NHRA's exasperation, as well.

He said the NHRA "started over, like they do every weekend when they get at these tracks -- and scraped and scrubbed and cut and banged and beat and pried and twisted -- and it was better. You have to hand it to them for putting the effort in. They did it to begin with. It just didn't adhere. The place is old, just got an old surface. It's coming up. And that's the way it is."

That might be the way it is.

But the question for the racers is: Are you willing to compromise safety and the protection of your equipment so no one rocks the boat? Nothing will change if all the racetrack management has to do is endure, or avoid paying attention to, a group of toothless tigers growl three days out of 365.

 The question for the NHRA is: Knowing that you have a couple of alternative tracks (Firebird near Boise, Idaho, and Woodburn in Oregon) that could host the Northwest Nationals with a minimal amount of upgrading, why do you allow the Pacific Raceways ownership to play you year after year with its seemingly endless excuses? And knowing that the State of Washington (unwisely and shortsightedly) strongly has rebuffed NASCAR's Sprint Cup overtures, keeping your market especially drag-racing friendly, why don't you flex some muscle and refuse to return to Pacific Raceways until the owners improve the place?

The Fioritos' behavior certainly doesn't appear to be that of a track operator who cares about racing, racers, or fans. (Certainly it is not respectful of the media, given the fact it warehouses representatives of inexplicably faithful media outlets in rickety trailers with no view of the racetrack.)

Said Scelzi, "It is a beautiful setting for a dragstrip, but they need to put a dragstrip in there. And if they can't afford it, then maybe we need to go away and come back at a later time when somebody can afford to make the racing decent.

"The track needs to be replaced. It needs to be dolled up," he said. "And if they don’t have the money, I certainly understand that. But they've been giving us false promises for a long time, and I think it's time to put up or shut up. Even if we dropped our schedule back to 18 races or whatever it would be, I still say quality, not quantity."

The excuses are transparent, and they're nothing short of scandalous. It's impossible to disagree with Scelzi, whose remarks echoed a blunt editorial at Competition Plus (www.competition

He said, "There's no excuse for having a facility like it is. There's no excuse for this type of situation."

Who's going to be the leader here? Who's going to do something about it? It's time to get on that "Honey-do" list.

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